I honestly cannot remember the last time I read an entire book in one day. And I don’t mean a little artsy book like The Address Book. I mean like a full-sized book. And, of course, I mean before finishing Bossypants, Tina Fey’s brilliantly funny memoir, just a few minutes ago. I can remember that, and certainly will for a long time to come.
Bossypants isn’t your ordinary memoir. It’s autobiographical in scope, but tends to be more focused on Fey’s career. That’s not to say that she doesn’t supply plenty of details of her personal life, but what makes it a memoir and not an autobiography, in my mind, is that she spends a considerably larger amount of time discussing how she came to be working on SNL, and then 30 Rock than she does on discussing her entire life — for instance, she doesn’t say how she met her husband, says nothing of their time dating, their engagement, etc. She has a chapter about her honeymoon, however, which does, in the end, serve the role of referring back to show business more than to her personal life. So, I look at it more as a memoir of her time in show business up to the fifth year of 30 Rock, as far as I can place it given what she mentions.
As I’ve suspected ever since watching the entire series, Liz Lemon and Tina Fey are more or less the same person. Sure, Fey was already married by the time she was working on SNL, while Lemon’s personal life really only takes off as TGS is ending. But Lemon’s personality — her sardonic wit, her love of Star Wars, all the things that make her such a wonderfully lovable character — are, basically, Tina Fey. Which isn’t surprising, of course, given that the series was based on Fey’s life. Hell, Lemon’s even from rural Pennsylvania, just like Fey. This really shows through in the book. There’s absolutely no doubt that Fey really is a bitingly sarcastic nerd who doesn’t live her life catering to what others want or like, but doesn’t complain when people do like her.
Perhaps the best way to summarize Fey, in my opinion, is in the story she tells about being heckled at 13 years of age:
I experienced car creepery at thirteen. I was walking home from middle school past a place called the World’s Largest Aquarium — which, legally, I don’t know how they could call it that, because it was obviously an average-sized aquarium. Maybe I should start referring to myself as the World’s Tallest Man and see how that goes? Anyway, I was walking home alone from school, and I was wearing a dress. A dude drove by and yelled, ” Nice tits.” Embarrassed and enraged, I screamed after him, “Suck my dick.” Sure, it didn’t make any sense, but at least I didn’t hold in my anger. (Bossypants, Tina Fey, Reagan Arthur Books/Little, Brown and Company, New York, 2011. pg. 16).
That, to me, is Tina Fey in a nutshell. The book is full of hilarious anecdotes like this, plus strange analogies, off-beat advice about succeeding at work, skin/hair/make-up routines, and surviving magazine cover photoshoots. There are also pictures, both from Fey’s youth and from sketches, episodes, and promotional material. There were times when I found myself actually laughing out loud, something that’s not entirely common when I’m reading.
Fey’s writing is clean and to-the-point. She doesn’t skimp on detail by any means, but she also doesn’t sugar-coat anything, nor does she elaborate more than she needs to. She tells her stories in the sort of off-the-cuff way she might tell them to a friend. And why not? After all, her comedy background comes from a good deal of time spent in improv classes and performances. It reflects in her writing. There is a definitely flow to the narrative, though it’s not entirely chronological — she might be talking about working on SNL, and relate it back to an anecdote from high school, perhaps. You can just picture her remembering the story while writing the book, and rather than adding it elsewhere, just puts it right where it belongs — following the thought that reminded her of it in the first place. It reads as though we were looking straight into Fey’s head, reading the story off her thoughts as they come to her.
Also of note is that, unusually for a memoir, there’s no fourth wall here. Fey addresses her readers directly a number of times throughout the book, probably more often than Deadpool does. There’s no trace of a distanced author recounting her life here. There’s just up close and personal Tina Fey, blasting her wit directly onto your retinas. Though I want to listen to the audio book narrated by Fey herself, I almost (almost) feel it would be superfluous. Her voice is clear enough that I can hear it even as I read the words on paper.
At this point anything else I say is just going to be more embellishment on how much I loved the book, so I’ll get to the relevance of my title. I’ve become convinced that in some way, Tina Fey is truly the epitome of the human being. She is a universal figure; love her or hate her, you will have something in common with her, I can almost guarantee it. If there is any one concept that is a perfect representation of human existence, that can carry over to alternate realities and be a universal concept there too, that concept is Tina Fey. We are all Tina Fey, and she is all of us.
I’m not saying she’s God, but I wouldn’t be surprised if God were a bit like Tina Fey, too.
In closing, I’m sending a message to Tina Fey, on the incredibly unlikely, almost impossible chance that she may someday see this: Ms. Fey, thank you for being you. You are an inspiration, and I only wish I had to opportunity to just hang out with you and hear more awesome, hilarious stories about being nerdy and working in comedy. Also, I’m convinced you are my spirit animal and will strive to become a better nerd for the sake of nerd-dom, comedy, and humanity in general.
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